Seeing things from different points of view.

The Second Meaning of Design is being able to switch between different points of view.

Resolution as the change of perspective.

Big picture or small details? High fidelity or rough illustration? Vision or execution?

Choosing the right distance is crucial for the success of a project.

Start designing without a vision and you’ll soon get feasibility problems and negative feedback from future users of your product or service. Indulge too much on the vision and you’ll never make it real, losing momentum or grip on the market.

You’ll need to switch quickly between different points of view: this ability allows you to change Resolution while you’re designing.

If a good designer can view many sides of a problem simultaneously, a great designer is able to find new ways to look at problems, fostering pains, gains and solutions.

“That’s great — you may say — but how do you actually bring a change of view in a project?”

“Show, don’t tell”, I answer.

The most peculiar skill of a designer is the ability to illustrate an idea, in order to create alignment.

It can be a journey map, a service blueprint, a simple sketch, a wireframe or a detailed interactive mockup. There are so many deliverables out there.

Before starting your best concentration playlist and jump in the design activity, you first need to decide which kind of Resolution you’ll use.

The truth is that you’ll hardly need a super time-consuming pixel perfect deliverable. In most cases, you’ll need to fake it just enough.

“Fake it until you make it”, they say.

I recently encountered the concept of Pretotyping (…yes, you read it right).

Pretotyping, from the book “The Right It” by Alberto Savoia.

The basic idea of Pretotyping is to:

  1. Define a Market Engagement Hypothesis (your key assumption)
  2. Create the quickest testable artifact (the Pretotype) to validate the hypothesis.
  3. Involve potential customers in order to to collect significant data (leads, subscription to newsletters, purchases, etc…)
  4. Use the smallest/nearest /cheapest environment (your building, your neighbourhood, your office, that shop near home, etc… ).

And when I say “quickest artifact”, I really mean it.

A Pretotype can be just a simple piece of paper, an email or a piece of wood. It’s just what it takes to test your idea.

Wood/paper model for the PalmPilot, to try out screen designs and characterize the diffilculty of performing tasks. Photo by Michael Hicks.

My own experience of Pretotyping (spoiler: it was awesome!)

I tried to introduce the Pretoyping mindset in my everyday work. What I got for a result was a deep change of Resolution.

And it wasn’t just for me!

The entire team was able to see the core idea from many different perspectives.

Having a visual illustration of what normally is just written in business requirements (a wonderful plain word document) was a radical change in how projects are usually approached.

Every department, from IT to Communication and Branding, was suddenly able to focus on the overall idea instead of just the details of their peculiar silo.

The Pretotype was then shown to intended future users, so we collected evidences and adjusted the design. It simply never happened before that the design was tested before the detailed design phase occurred.

The team was able to discuss the business idea, the feasibility and the roadmap without encoutering the usual resistances.

All thanks to a simple Pretotype!

The difficult part? Bring the Change, obviously.

Hm. Actually this Pretotyping story isn’t a major revelation, after all.

If you took anything like a basic course of Design Thinking, any instructor will say that early testing with final users is a key aspect to validate the initial assumptions of a concept.

It is how you apply this in the organization, allowing a change of Resolution while watching the idea. This may be easily be the most difficult part.

If I may give you a little piece of advice, I’d say this:

Design to allow even others to see things from different points of view, thus changing Resolution.

Show. Illustrate. Let them try in first person. Let them live the Second Meaning.

You’ll get a committed team who will also act as a promoter of your idea.

Solving problems, for people

Representation of the main logo as a light bulb. It suggests that the word "resolution" means the action of finding a solution to a given problem.
Resolution as the act of solving problems.

The First Meaning of Design is to find solutions for problems.

Have you ever thought about what a problem is?

After spending some time trying to solve them, I realized how much problems are things that are deeply centred on people.

They may be a pain point or an action that is impossible to complete. In most cases, they are at the very heart of people. Overcoming a problem may determine a happy moment in their day or it may even be a major relief in their life.

It’s so nice when a problem is solved.

A problem is the quintessential reason of why Human-Centered Design is so lovely important.

Solving problems is a deliberate action of Design.

A solution doesn’t just show up by itself, you know. It requires someone spending time ideating, realizing, distributing and adjusting it. Then some people choosing to adopt it (and some other to reject it) .

Caring about people is crucial.

You can’t call it Design if you’re not acting as people’s advocate. As a designer, you’re nothing but trying to achieve a positive impact, in the most meaningful and ethical way.

That’s why finding a suitable solution is not an easy task.

It requires you to:

  • know more about who will use your product or service,
  • understand them,
  • brainstorm possibile ideas,
  • test solutions with people,
  • constantly learning, adjusting and repeating.

This approach is a standard among designers. There are also several frameworks that regulate this process.

Here’s some of the most well-known:

Then, there’s my favourite, the Design Squiggle.

Representation of the design process by Damien Newman. It's a single stroke that shows an initial confusion that leads to a clearer line at the end.
The Process of Design Squiggle by Damien Newman,

It’s a simple and yet effective representation of how Design works, from initial mess to a minimal and elegant line.

Each Design process revolves around a common fulcrum: the resolution of a problem.

So, solving problem is a core aspect of Design.

But following the right methodology and every step of the design process is not enough to make you a Designer.

If you want act like one, you’d better ask yourself if you’re actually solving a problem.

The following question is one of the main pillars of my personal Oath of Design. I’m happy to share it with you.

Am I actually solving a problem?

That tiny voice in my head.

If you’re not solving a problem, well… the one with a problem it’s you.

Oh, now it’s you that have a problem. And who you gonna call?

Good news! *You* can always start solving it.

Asking yourself about the First Meaning is a great way to understand if you’re acting as a Designer.

If you realize that you’re working without a real problem to solve, you should stop for a moment and reconsider how to better channel your efforts in something more meaningful.

This is what I repeat to myself, regularly.